Voluntary suspension discussed

By MIKE MASTERSON
Executive editor
The Sentinel-Record Date Unknown

Hot Springs Police Chief Grover Douglas said Thursday he talked with a police lieutenant now charged with first degree murder about that policeman accepting either a voluntary suspension or leave of absence while the officer was a prime suspect in the case.

Douglas said Lt. Thurman Abernathy, of Hot Springs, who was charged last Friday in the brutal murder of Deputy Sheriff Linda Edwards, would not voluntarily remove himself from the department during the investigation last year, either by suspension or leave of absence.

But Douglas also said he at no time ordered Abernathy to submit to a polygraph test, saying he was advised against such action by City Attorney Curtis Ridgway.

He said he met with Mayor Tom Ellsworth and the city Civil Service Commission on three occasions to discuss Abernathy “because of the controversy” that arose in the community over the matter.

Abernathy worked on the police force for nearly a year during 1976-77 while he was the principal suspect in the state police investigation.

In some states, Douglas said, when an officer refuses a direct order from his superior to take a polygraph in connection with a possible criminal act that he or she might be involved in, suspension has been ruled in order by the courts. He cited the recent case of an Arizona deputy who lost his job by refusing a polygraph.

“This incident has hurt the department,” Douglas said. “There’s no doubt about that, and it’s hurt me personally.”

The Chief said he believed both the credibility and reputation of the local police force” was damaged at a time when we were trying very hard to upgrade the system.”

But Douglas also said Abernathy’s arrest brought a measure of relief. “I know I was relieved when it finally happened and I feel Lt. Abernathy was, too. Now we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

“I certainly hope he’s not guilty. But if he is, I hope he gets the extreme punishment.”

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